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Italy has deadliest day from coronavirus with 969 fatalities

A volunteer hands a mask to protect against coronavirus to a man in the Tuscan town of Castiglione della Pescaia, Italy, on Friday.
A volunteer hands a mask to protect against coronavirus to a man in the Tuscan town of Castiglione della Pescaia, Italy, on Friday.Jennifer Lorenzini/LaPresse/Associated Press

Italy reported its highest number of deaths from the coronavirus, even as the number of new cases declined on Friday.

Fatalities from the disease shot up to 969, the most in a 24-hour period since the start of the outbreak.

New infections in the last 24 hours totaled 5,959, compared with 6,153 the previous day, civil protection authorities said at their daily news conference in Rome. Italy now has 86,498 total cases, roughly the same number as the U.S. and more than China, where the disease’s first outbreak occurred.

Italy’s health authorities had been cautiously optimistic in comments earlier Friday, noting the curve of the contagion’s spread started flattening slightly March 20. The governor of Lombardy, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, said his region may see a decline in new virus cases within the next few days.

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Spain on Thursday had its deadliest day of the outbreak so far, as European leaders struggled to agree on a strategy.

The World Health Organization appealed for a stronger action against the coronavirus after U.S. President Donald Trump offered a plan to restore normal business by ranking counties by their virus risk. The U.S. overtook China for the most cases worldwide on Thursday, fueled by a large jump in infections in New York.